Friday, March 2, 2012

Bid Stealers and Other Nuggets

Conference tournament play is underway and the first bids will be awarded tomorrow.  We have spent the past few months/weeks playing ping pong with the final at-large teams in the field and analyzing the bubble ad nauseum.  This is the week where those bubble teams start to worry that the bid stealers will be out in full force and lower the number of spots available for the final at-large teams.  Are there really that many bid-stealers out there this year?  Is this the year the bubble remains intact?  Here are the possibilities for bubble shrinkage.
  • Ohio Valley Conference - Murray State will be in the Field of 68 even if they lose in the OVC Tourney.  They deserve it this year and are simply playing for seed.  All bubble teams are huge Racer fans today and tomorrow.
  • Missouri Valley Conference - Wichita State and Creighton have locked themselves into the field.  That leaves some danger for a bid stealer, a concept the Missouri Valley has been no stranger to over the years.  Watch out for Evansville, Northern Iowa, Illinois State and Missouri State (does anyone remember when they were Southwest Missouri State??).
  • Conference USA - Memphis and Southern Miss have arguably inflated RPI's, but both appear safe as Selection Sunday approaches.  Would it be a surprise if UCF, Tulsa, Marshall or even UAB won the C-USA Tourney over these two?  Not at all.  The committee says they award bids to teams and not leagues, so 3 from this desperately mediocre conference is not out of the question, especially if the two so-called locks make at least the semis.
  • West Coast Conference - This one teeters on how safe BYU really is, if at all.  This is one where if Loyola Marymount or less likely San Francisco shocked the conference and took the automatic bid, I would guess BYU should start looking into hosting NIT games.
  • Mountain West Conference - I am starting to get into longshots for bid stealing now.  This would require both a good performance from Colorado State, but ultimately Wyoming or TCU would have to win the tournament.  Plus UNLV plays this one at home, so are any of these teams really going to get through a UNLV/New Mexico/San Diego State gauntlet?  This is really only a bid stealer if you feel Colorado State is not in.
  • Ivy League - Could Harvard make it with 5 losses?  They have a pretty clean profile, including more Top 100 wins than usual.  They would be in the discussion at a minimum.
  • Atlantic 10 - Conventional wisdom says at least 3 teams will get in from the A-10, but if a school other than Temple or St. Louis wins the tourney, that will be almost a certainty.
  • Sun Belt and Colonial - Middle Tennesse, Drexel and VCU all have had very good seasons and currently sit at 5 or 6 losses.  All three lack the number of Top 50 and 100 wins typical of an at-large team.  Some will argue their inclusion over a 13 loss UConn.  Unless the committee changes their philosophy, I suggest all 3 win their Conference Tourney (and I know only two can).
A few other thoughts.
  • Is Tennessee this years USC, a team not on the radar until the last week?  If Tennessee beats Vanderbilt at home this weekend and follows up with another quality win in the SEC tournament, their profile will be worth considering.  They currently sit at 80 in the RPI, but that number would be sure to rise in this scenario, just how far I don't know.  Vandy would be a 4th Top 50 win, joining two over Florida and one over Connecticut.  The SEC tournament win would need to be at least a top 100 win, either say one of the Mississippi schools or even better, Alabama.  This all goes out the window with a loss to Vandy, but keep an eye on this one.
  • The Big Ten is not guaranteed a 1-seed.  I keep hearing the committee will reward the #1 conference with a 1-seed.  The committee looks at teams, not conferences.  If Kansas and either Duke or North Carolina wins out, I think the Big Ten will be off the 1-line.  My opinion, but there is nothing saying a team from the #1 RPI conference has to be a 1 seed.  Its #1 because of its depth and they just happened to beat each other up this year.

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